Dornoch ‘dead in the water’ on The Savoy

“We’re dead in the water right now.” That’s how Glen Fishman, managing partner of Dornoch Holdings, described to Redevelopment Agency commissioners his firm’s situation with The Savoy.

In a rare appearance at the agency’s meeting Wednesday night, Fishman was invited to provide an update on the firm’s stalled projects and activity at its properties. He started with the good news (filling rental properties), but we’ll get to that in our next post. For now, the bad news.

“We’re a little stuck here, I wish I had better news,” Fishman told commissioners, adding that they’re still negotiating with Wachovia. Rahway’s real estate fundamentals still exist, with its location and proximity but housing prices have made it hard to get people to invest. “People are still confident in Rahway, it’s just the economics,” he said. Condos can’t be built when they’re selling for $150,000 a unit, he said, but expressed confidence in “getting something there” in 12 months.

Dornoch spent a lot of money acquiring properties along Main Street for the four-story, 36-unit development, many of which were razed. Archaeological and historical issues relating to cisterns at the Savoy site cost Dornoch $1 million and a year’s time, he claimed, which “blew the budget on the Wachovia loan.” At one point there was a possibility of financing from Valley National for rental apartments but the deal could not get done, he said.

Fishman told commissioners he hopes “at some point the economics make sense, whether selling to another developer who can make it work” or otherwise. Dornoch has fielded offers from some local developers, he said, but so far three offers that have been made “have not been acceptable to the lender.”

(By my estimate, via PropertyShark and other sites, Dornoch acquired almost 20 downtown parcels at a total cost of almost $9 million or more — mine may be an incomplete list — pretty much the height of the real estate market in 2006.)

Redevelopment Agency Chairman William Rack asked if the steel beams, which went up at The Savoy site in summer 2008, might be taken down at some point, assuming they probably won’t be used in whatever ends up at the site. Fishman said it’s not necessarily a certainty that the steel would go unused. Steel doesn’t really go bad so it still has value, he said, adding that Dornoch doesn’t have the money to remove it anyway, and doing so might actually reduce the value of the property.